How to deal with a bullying colleague?

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AlwaysWorking
AlwaysWorking Posts: 611 Forumite
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edited 18 October 2016 at 2:32PM in Marriage, relationships & families
Hi everyone. I started a new job in a small company four months ago. It's a fantastic opportunity for me to get back into an area of work I've wanted to do for a while and I took quite a cut in pay to work here.

I work in an office with a woman (everyone else is in other offices)...it's impossible to explain her behaviour properly but I think they way she treats me is verging on bullying. She can last weeks without speaking to me, completely ignoring me, apart from multiple emails every day telling me to do things (she isn't my line manager). Everything I do is wrong according to her and she has no hesitation in telling me off infront of everyone. I'm in my late 30s and usually confident and outgoing but this is really affecting me...to the point that I was crying when I went home last night and before I came into work this morning. I feel so angry at myself for not standing up to her. I find myself wondering aimlessly around shops at lunchtime just to stay out of the office because when I attempt to eat at my desk she deliberately emails me with things that need done 'urgently'.

Because the company is small there is no HR and I don't want to complain to the boss when I'm so new....but I'm constantly on edge and can't go on like this much longer. Has anyone else experienced this kind of thing and what did you do?





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  • missbiggles1
    missbiggles1 Posts: 17,481 Forumite
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    What sort of things is she telling you to do - is she right in saying you should be doing them?
  • Person_one
    Person_one Posts: 28,884 Forumite
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    I think you need to speak to your line manager, it might be a new job, but you can't carry on in it for long like this, can you?
  • AlwaysWorking
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    I've no issue whatsoever with what she is asking me to do. Sorry...upset and not explaining this right. It's more the fact that I sit directly across the desk from her and she hasn't spoken to me in weeks, not even a hello unless it is to tell me off like a small child in a voice that everyone in the company can hear. Some of the work is probably stuff she should be doing but I honestly don't care, I'd rather be busy. It's more the tone of the emails and they are pretty constant.
    "I believe that everything happens for a reason. People change so that you can learn to let go, things go wrong so that you appreciate them when they're right, you believe lies so you eventually learn to trust no one but yourself, and sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together." Marilyn Monroe
  • baby_lemonade
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    Office politics.. hard to know which way it's going to go.

    Someone at our work was given a disciplinary for verbal bullying, when a new member of staff walked out because of her behaviour.

    Then again, I've worked for a smaller company in the past and the manager and the owner were best buddies. The manager was therefore given carte blanche to do and say whatever he wanted to (and he did!)
  • AlwaysWorking
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    Office politics.. hard to know which way it's going to go.

    When does it become more than office politics though? I've never said a thing to her...too intimidated tbh. She is nasty to everyone but they're lucky enough not to have to share an office. One of my male colleagues overheard her speaking to me one day and stepped in to tell her to stop talking to me like that. I wish I could get the courage to do that myself. :(
    "I believe that everything happens for a reason. People change so that you can learn to let go, things go wrong so that you appreciate them when they're right, you believe lies so you eventually learn to trust no one but yourself, and sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together." Marilyn Monroe
  • tea_lover
    tea_lover Posts: 8,261 Forumite
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    Do you actually work with her (as in, same department, same type of work, etc), or have you just been lumbered sharing an office with her? Is there anywhere else you could sit? I realise that won't solve all of the issues but it sounds like being physically located with other people would really help.
  • Poppy3008
    Poppy3008 Posts: 95 Forumite
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    If you stand up to her it might be that she changes. Most bullies hate people confronting them so just say calmly and nicely (and smile) 'please don't speak to me like that'. Sounds easier than it will be but I would put money on the fact she will probably stop. Keep being nice to her, say good morning, hello, ask if she wants a brew etc. Don't play at her own game - rise above it.
  • Guest101
    Guest101 Posts: 15,764 Forumite
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    Best advice I can give is learn to say No.
  • TBagpuss
    TBagpuss Posts: 11,205 Forumite
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    It does sound unpleasant.

    In terms of the not speaking, that's tricky as you can't force someone to be friendly. I would suggest that you ignore it as much as you can, so for instnace, say 'good morning' to her when you arrive, good bye when leaving etc - so ypou are treating her with politelness and asahe can't claim that you aare being rude or that she is ignoring you becuae you are blanking her.

    In relation to the e-mails and her 'tone' in them, its dificult without knowing what she is writing, but again, I'd aim for politeness.

    if she is condencending in the e-mails (e.g. if their tone is like telling a small and not-very -bright child what to do) then it might be worth sending a polite repsonse saying.

    "I am happy to do [Task x] for you on this ocassion. Dont worry about spelling out the steps needed, I'm used to doing this type of task / was given full training in Task X / It's pretty striaghtforward"

    That way, you're respeonding as if she was just trying to be helpful so again you aren't giving her any ammunition, but if she carries on you have a more concrete issue to raise ("I've made clear to her I understnad the taks but she continues to be very condesending")

    In relatin to her telling you off, I think a "Please don't speak to me in that one. If you have a concern about howI am doing my job which directly affects you, eel ree to raise it with me privately"

    If it is about somethingwhich doesn't directly affect her, then a slightly firmer "[Name], I'm doing what [boss] has instructed. I'm not clear why you feel it's appropriate to comment, but if you have anything to say, can you pelase do it politely, and in private."

    Are there other staff members who you get on well with? Can you ask them whether this is somthing she does to everyone and whether they've found any way to adress it.

    I also think it would be Ok to speak to your line manager. You can make clear that you are happy with the jjob iteself and your other colleguaes, and that you are not aware of any reason why she is treating you this wy, and ask twhether there is anything which can be done. For instnace, might it be possible to shuffle people around so you don't have to sahre an office with her, or for the manager to speak to her (and to you when she is there) to more clearly define your res;pective roles and to make clear you don't answer to her.

    You canalso ask about the work she is giving you. In speaking to the line manager, this might be long the lines of "Just at present, I'm not too busy so I am happy to help her out, but I am not sure whether you want me to be accepting work from her, as it wasn't something I was told about hwen i was given my induiction.So far I have done everything she's asked but I am concenred that as I setle in and become busier I won't have the capacity to do so and I'm woried about settign a precedent. Would you rather I let you know if I have extra capacity?
    Can you also confirm - when I am busy would it be appropriate for me to give work to her to help me out?"

    I think you would also be fine to respond to her demands by responding with somethign like "I'll be happy to help once I've finished [task you're meant to be doing]. If she says something is more urgent then you canat that pojt ask your manager for guidance
    "I am in the middle of doing [task] for you/boss. [Name] has told me to do [separate task] for her and says it is urgent. I just wanted to check whether you want me to prioritise that over the tasks you've given me?"

    NAd for anything she gives you when you are on lunch then smile and say "I'll look t tha as soon as I've finished my lunch break"

    Do you know whether you replaced someone or is yours a new role? If it is a new role, it's not obvious why she would need you to do anything.
    All posts are my personal opinion, not formal advice Always get proper, professional advice (particularly about anything legal!)
  • paddy's_mum
    paddy's_mum Posts: 3,977 Forumite
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    She is nasty to everyone

    That is some small comfort that it's not you in particular.

    I have been in your shoes (unfortunately there seems to be one in every workplace) and if the boss cannot physically move your desk out of range of this sorry individual, you may have to leave simply to protect your own mental and physical health.

    What I can tell you is that behaviour such as this becomes a slow drip-drip-drip of anxiety and fear and depression and no job on earth is worth the damage to the heart and soul of you.

    I feel for you and hope that a quiet word in the guvnor's ear can bring about real change for you.
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